So, you got SharePoint 2013 and you need some servers to install it on? Why not try Windows Azure VMs?
I followed the same process I had followed before to install SharePoint 2010 on Windows Azure VMs, and lo and behold, it also works for SharePoint 2013 – just make sure not to skimp on the RAM.
Here’s my first SharePoint 2013 screenshot: http://twitpic.com/a8npcy
I used one Medium VM for the DB Server (SQL Server 2012) and one Large VM for the SharePoint 2013 server. That’s 3.5GB + 7GB of RAM. And honestly I feel it wasn’t quite enough because the whole thing felt usable but a little bit slow (Microsoft is recommending 12GB for the SharePoint box when the SQL Server is in a separate box, 24GB if you use the same machine for SharePoint+SQL).
You can follow the tutorials on how to create the machines and install the software here: (just use SharePoint 2013 on Windows Server 2008 R2 instead of SharePoint 2010) http://blogs.msdn.com/b/hanuk/archive/2012/06/21/setup-sharepoint-farm-on-windows-azure-virtual-machines.aspx
A few notes:
There are no fixed IP addresses yet on Windows Azure VMs and that can make you go “uh?” when you think about promoting the SharePoint machine to Domain Controller. After all, you will need to setup DNS on the SQL box to point to the Domain Controller. Don’t worry, the IP addresses may be dynamic, but honestly they don’t seem to change.
You may get a “The virtual machine cannot restart. The current virtual machine state is RoleStateUnknown.” error if you shutdown one of the machines to change some settings. If you do, just delete the machine and create a new one based on the one you just deleted:
On Windows Azure VMs when you “delete” a VM you don’t actually delete it, it just goes into the machine templates list, so when you create a machine the deleted one just shows up as a template.
When you shutdown a VM, it is still consuming “computing hours”, so to avoid this go ahead and delete the VM, and later create a new one – as stated above, the deleted machine will show up in the template list.